Friday, October 29, 2010

The Coco Loco hostel in Canoa

The bigass church in Quito

A woodburning I did

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Hummingbird in Mindo

Hummingbird in Mindo

Hummingbird in the Emerald City
Pretty Flower

The Village of Las Tolas from a nearby mountain

Trucha a la Plancha, roasted pink trout, caught 20 minutes before by me. Amazing.
This pig looks very happy for being dead

Cloudy...sometimes I think it's hanging down on's hitchhike a hundred miles...I'm a ragamuffin child

Digging a bajillion holes for reforestation with Igor the Ukranian

Orchidia in Mindo

Pitcher plants eat bugs!

This butterfly has been through the wars

This butterfly has not

This butterfly has transparent wings

These butterflies do not

The whole Fam: Left top Jadyra, Maria, Fernando, Tania, Elvirea, Mecias, Pira, bottom Alonso, Brian holding Pequeno Ivan

My unbelievable lunch in Atacames. Theres a 8 inch fried fish, kalamari, and crabs hiding under there too

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Montepiche was fun, relaxing, but since it was kind of dreary and its basically a town with nothing but a beach, it was time to head out after a day and a half. We caught then ten oclock bus out of the town, up to a tiny village called tres vias, and then waited a half hour there for a bus to Chamanga. In Chamanga we waited for a bus to Pedernales (pronounced pearnahles) and then in Pedernales caught a bus to Canoa. This took a while. We got to Canoa hungry and exhausted. The first hostel we stopped at, the one which looked like it had a great vibe, told us they had room and then didn't. It's the only full hostel in the town. So we stayed down the street a block at another very pretty hotel.
Last night we ran into a Belgian couple we had seen in at the hostel in Montepiche. We stopped to have some drinks with them after a dinner of Cerviche and shrimp soup (delicious). We ended out going dancing afterwards, which was amazing, barefoot slightly drunken dancing to spanish music in a little club with a view of the ocean or under a thatched roof directly on the beach. I had a great Pina Colada early on.
This morning we had breakfast at the hostel we had wanted initially, and it was delicious. Crepes with cream sauce wrapped around fresh strawberries papaya and melon, and some kind of mixed skillet with potatoes and bacon and cheese and eggs all kinds of delicious stuff. We decided to try again, and they had rooms so we went over there. Now we are chilling until we feel like leaving. Going to go surfing with my neighbor in a few minutes.
This is not the beach at all!

Getting Mugged with Machete and Bamboo Pole, and the Beach

                Went to the beach for a few days of R and R. First we went down to Atacames, via Esmeraldes. This trip was way easier then I expected. Took the bus to Nanegalito, and caught a bus from there to Quininde. Waited like ten seconds in Quinende, and then caught the bus to Esmeraldes, where we waited like zero seconds before catching a bus to Atacames. We grabbed a king coconut to drink and then headed to the Beach.
                First we had lunch. We went to a restaurant that was filled with people and ordered the famous house plate, a giant mixed seafood bonanza. It was probably the best seafood I've ever had. A lobster, roasted and halved, probably around three pounds of marinated roasted shrimp, kalamari, roasted clams, two different kinds of crab, and all of it sitting on top of a large fried fish. To top it all off there is a side plate of rice, beans, a little salad, and patacones. We finished the seafood, not the rice. I was completely ludicrously stuffed afterwards. Then to the beach.
                The beach is beautiful, lined with little artisan shops, ice cream vendors, and during the day cerviche stands out on the sand. That night, around six thirty, we were asking a guy which place in Atacames was the best to eat, and he told us about his cousin or something who made the best Encocado in the world, or something like that, and told us to follow him. We followed him pretty far into Atacames, over two bridges, and a hundred yards after the second bridge I was starting to think that maybe this wasn't the best neighborhood.
                I hear a scream and turn around, and Nina is pointing at a guy who is running off with her purse which he's just cut off of her in one hand and a machete in the other. I'm wearing flip flops, but I take off after him, chasing him down a hill in between shanties and running him into a corner between two makeshift houses. He starts swinging the machete around and saying some stuff I can't understand. I spread out my hands and tell him, "Solo nessicito los papeles, el dinero es para tu", take the money give me my papers. I hear Nina shout my name and I turn around and theres a guy behind me picking up a big piece of bamboo, six inches around and six feet long. Too big to be an effective weapon, but I wasn't trying to get hit with it. I kind of backed to the side so I could see them both but so that the guy with the purse couldn't get past me.
                He started to pull things out of the purse and then throw them onto the ground. He found Nina's coin purse which had thirty bucks and some change and took it and then threw the empty purse onto the ground. He threw out our passports which I picked up immidiatly and put into my pocket. He took my wallet and took out maybe a hundred fifty dollars, (he actually left 10 in I think by accident), and my debit card which can't be used without a PIN, and dropped it. Thank god now I don't have to go to the DMV when I get back. He emptied the purse, took what he wanted, and then dropped the purse. I collected the items and put them back in. He had dropped a pack of cigarettes and I offered them too him but he didn't want them. He and his buddy then ran off. I went back to the road, where a crowd had gathered and was watching, which is probably why I didn't get slashed. The guy who had brought us was like freaking out and rubbing his temples, I don't know if he was involved or not. We walked back to the safe part of town. All in all, we only lost the money, my debit card, and a bag of rolling tobacco. Notably, we kept the passports, my drivers license and social security card, my credit card, and the purse and most of its contents.
                We got back to the main strip where its patrolled by police and pretty safe and went back to the hostel. I was pretty fired up. We were both really pissed for not trusting our gut instincts to stop over the second bridge. C'est la vie. We went to the beach afterwards and got some cocktails, Nina had a little extra money in her bag, and we needed the drinks. Cocktail called Atacames de Noche, and its just alot of fruit and rum served in a hollowed pineapple. Delicious, but kind of expensive (for ecuador, cheap for anywhere else).
                Next day we caught the bus to Montepiche. This tiny beautiful little town is thirty minutes from a paved road, has maybe five or seven hostels or hotels and a handful of restaurants. There is one amazing fruit stand where a guy makes juices while shaking marimbas. This place has an amazing atmosphere.  We are staying in a place called DMCA surf hostel, which is all bamboo and driftwood, with piles of old books left by travelers to read and a beautiful roof overlooking the ocean with a 365 degree view under a thatched roof. Really peaceful and nice here, but not as hot as Atacames. Had some delicious Encocado, seafood cooked in basically coconut milk stew. Really delicious. And some bomb fried fish. The beach is nice.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

If you read one thing on this blog, make it this story.

This story is the reason I'm here. Its the understanding I've been looking for, the revelation I came to find in the first place, and the first thing I've written worth reading in a while.


I've been having this recurring dream, the first one in my life. I've had it every night for three days now. I'm in bed with the girl who broke my heart, except everything is ok now, and I'm holding her in my arms. She's asleep, and I am laying there not thinking about anything, just feeling warm and right. I close my eyes and drift into placid dream sleep. This lasts for zero-time, I wake up and there is a giant spider in the mosquito netting above my bed. I involuntarily shiver and it moves the netting and the spider falls onto the sheets. The spider is different every time. First it was a big banana spider I had seen while tearing thatch down to refinish a roof, which a four year old had smashed with his boot. Next it was a giant hairy tarantula, after that, a wolf spider which I remember used to hide in Kayaks when I was a kid. I freak out and try to fling the spider away, trying to twist away from it. This is when I lose which world I'm in. I do these actions in the waking world, running from a demon of the sleeping world. I look around noticing my bed is different, huddled up with my knees to my chest, looking for the spider, and wondering where Nina is. That's her name. Nina.
We met on the bus from Quito to Las Tolas. It was pure chance that I happened to go back to Quito for the weekend to go on a trip to the highlands in Chimborazo province with some family friends, and likewise chance that I decided to go back to the village the same day as her. There is only one bus a day to Las Tolas, a village with a population of less then two hundred, twenty miles from a paved road in the Andean cloud forest.
I walked up to the bus station with my backpack at half load, just the stuff I needed for the weekend, and there was this girl, with a backpack, waiting by the busses. She had short blonde hair, the kind with waves like a frozen lake, too short to flow. Her eyes are green and amber. She's wearing a gray scarf. I tell myself she can't be going to Las Tolas, because that would be too awesome. She smiles as I walk up to her.
"You look like a volunteer." I said.
"I am." She has a soft German accent, I soon learned it's Austrian, but nothing like Arnold Swarzanegger, it's more like her words stand strangely apart and flow from one to the next like a leaf running between rocks in a stream.
Little did I know that I had been thinking about this very girl for a week. The artisans across the street had thought they were receiving a volunteer from Australia (no one here knows where Austria is), and I had hoped earlier in the week for a beautiful girl with a sexy accent, but I had my reservations. This is what I wrote about it in my blog post:
Marianna told me they have a female Australian volunteer coming to stay with them in a week, so of course I am fantasizing about a gorgeous girl with a sexy accent living across the street from me (Who might even speak my language!). Since I'm excited about it she will probably have been in a horrific toxic waste accident as a child, and will be missing three quarters of her epidermis, but hey, maybe she has super-powers (like English-speakingness).
At this point I was the only volunteer in the village and the only English speaker. I sat next to her on the bus, after I told her I would help her find her way to Las Tolas, which can be tough, as I had to do it alone the first time. We had an amazing conversation. Everything I hoped she would say, every statement that showed who she was, she would say, and she was. I hadn't had an extended conversation in English with anyone for weeks, and on the three hour trip I poured my philosophy, my understanding, and my journeys into her. Twenty minutes into the trip the lights in the bus dimmed, and these eerie circular green and blue LEDs came on and cast this strange glow upon her, and I knew right then, that I was screwed.
Now let me explain why falling hopelessly for a girl means I am screwed. One would think that is exactly what every guy is looking for. It's not because I assumed she had a boyfriend, which I did, and it's not because I knew that the longest we could be united, if all things conspired to bring us together, was the month she planned to stay. In fact, all of the inevitable failings don't really bother me. I knew I was screwed because of history.
Tangenticide is when you break a train of thought to support it with a seemingly unrelated statement and never return to the original argument.
I believe that the universe is a giant pattern, and that patterns exert influence. This is one of the things I explained to Nina on the bus. All patterns exert influence. One water molecule has different properties from a thousand water molecules, just as one tree has completely different effects from a large forest. A tree maybe grows apples. Maybe it's pretty in someone's yard. Ten million trees filter entire water systems, create millions of cubic tonnes of oxygen and entire ecosystems for countless species. Likewise, one person has emotions, feelings, thoughts. Five people make a family, there are relationships, friendship, perhaps hatred and love. Seven billion people create incredible technology, destroy things in epic proportions with wars and bombs, build incredible creations and expand in infinite directions. Even though all those people are different, each with a unique fingerprint and eye color, let alone different brains and thoughts, they still unconsciously work together to exert massive influence because of their massive numbers, because of their massive pattern.
The point of this is fairly obvious statement is that the universe is really big. Really fucking big. Like, bigger then anyone can possibly comprehend, and as a result of that, it is inherently a giant pattern. Because it's so big it exerts a lot of influence. Mathematically impossible influence. That's what I think God is, or the cause of miracles and things we can't explain. That's how such ludicrously complex biological life even exists in the first place.
As a naturally narcissistic race, of course we all believe that God is impacting us, and so I guess I am a narcissistic person because I believe the universe is affecting me. I believe that the universe conspires to make people into what they are, that's what destiny is. When a truly great artists creates a masterpiece, or a great musician writes a song off the top of their head which blows the minds of millions, it's because for just a second, they are observing a tiny piece of that pattern, the universe is showing them that piece, and they are capturing it.
I think the universe also conspires to make people into what they are destined to be, and a large part of being a writer is pain. No one wants to read about happy people. In fact, happy people don't even really write. I know, I was happy for a while and I didn't write shit. It is my completely narcissistic belief that the universe is conspiring to make me into a writer, and that it is doing that by putting me through a serious of crucibles of understanding, and this is why I am screwed as soon as I fall in love. Because my heart has been broken many times before, and because I know it will be broken again. Because even as a child I was ripped away from people and places that I loved so much that it tempered my soul into that of a person whose only possible manner of escape is the solace of an empty page.
I've told myself several times that I would never let myself fall into this trap again. I wrote a lot of crappy poetry about it. I wrote this several years ago, when I fell in love with a beautiful and brilliant actress, and I wrote a beautiful story about it which I will never share, and then the universe did its thing.

The milk of human kindness impaled by the drill of lovesick blindness,
happiness dissuaded by complex woes related
the pain comes belated like endorphins after armors penetrated
No harm for the wicked, no peace for the good,
a fiercely raging battle taking place where I would
sit alone in my house
am I a man, or a mouse...
or maybe just a louse-
to be squashed and evicted
driven from my peak which I tried so hard to reach
though now I'm here the summits bleak, I might as well give up the fight before more fluid leaks
from the exposed part where I was hit by poison 
It's time to grow more armor, 
to wrap myself up in rhymes,
but my hearts been broken so many times I don't know where to 


I've spent years building this armor, and it took Nina five minutes to destroy it. It took one day, and I fell for her and she fell for me.
I asked her if she wanted to go for a walk, her second night in the village, to go smoke a cigarette up in the cloud forest. She smokes a lot of cigarettes. I love rolling cigarettes because I am lost in the cycle of the perpetual pothead, and had not done any drugs my entire time in Ecuador, and didn't plan on doing any.
We walked up the road above the village. We were swathed in clouds. In the village of Las Tolas, deep in the cloud forest, high in the Andes, the days are either crystal clear, and you can see mountains covered in fantastic greenery for miles, or you are completely enmeshed in clouds, and you can't see ten feet. This night was of the latter quality. She asked me if I knew a good spot to smoke, and I took her to the village water tower, which is really only about four feet tall, a big concrete square off the side of the road a few hundred meters above the village, which normally has a breathtaking view, but on this night was a soft island with a few trees peeking out of the clouds in a world of white. We climbed on the tower and rolled cigarettes and talked. I asked her if she had a boyfriend in Austria. She said there was some guy in Spain, but that it was an open thing. "I guess that means you don't have a girlfriend?" She said.
"What would make you think that?" I said, and kissed her. The clouds touch every inch of exposed skin with the moist breath of proximity, and I laid her down upon the concrete water tower and pushed my soul into hers. I was lost. Through our jackets and jeans we clutched each other and rolled over and over on the rough concrete, pushing our lips together and mingling our hot short breaths with the cool clouds enshrouding us. We kissed for a long time, and then she lay with her head upon my breast, and I gently stroked her hair, as soft and pure as corn-silk. I could feel her warmth through her thick jacket. I had only worn a jean jacket, and was shivering, but as she meshed with me in the clouds my body relaxed and I seemed to melt into the concrete surface, and float up with the clouds at the same time. She told me that there were moments where the world was so perfect, in such harmony, that you don't ever want to go anywhere more, that it could all end right now and that would be fine. I said this was one of those moments, and it was. I will never forget this. It was the most beautiful thing that has ever happened to me, and even knowing she would tear my heart to pieces, as I do now, and as I probably imagined then, I would do it again in an instant.
I don't think dating will ever be the same for me after those first few days. I have never felt that way before. Nothing close. Not with the actress, not with my longest (four month) relationship, not with my first crushes in middle school, not even with my best hallucinogenic experiences in the woods with the people who are my true brothers.
One day we walked an hour and a half to Tulipe, a nearby town, I cut her fresh sugarcane to chew on the way, as she'd never tried it, and we laughed and walked for an hour and a half and ate wild raspberries off the side of the road, and then laughed more as the sugarcane juices ran down into my beard, and then we kissed and it tasted like the essence of pureness and sweetness and growth (which is what fresh sugarcane tastes like). We went to a little restaurant in Tulipe where the two owners adopted us, and treated us like their children, and still do when we return there.
We went with a group of Peace Corps volunteers to a bike path which I had helped build (and was ludicrous manual labor) earlier. We climbed down to the river, and after swimming in freezing cold water with the others, we wandered off to our own little piece of rapids, and sat on a rock watching the clouds blow into the forest and start to rain. We held each other to keep warm as we dried and smoked cigarettes and the rain made us wet all over again and it didn't matter.
I've always been a very reserved lover. I hate lovy-dovy shit. I've had a couple of girlfriends, and a lot of girls, and I've don't think I've ever more then given them a peck in public, I think it's embarrassing, my mind wanders in every direction. This disappeared with Nina. Every spare moment we were locked in each other arms, we kissed while waiting at the bus stop, at random points along the road, whenever we had time to rest we were in each others rooms, just holding each other, thinking about nothing. She was the only girl I've kissed who I didn't think about kissing, I just did it. Normally I think about whether to open my eyes or not, I think about what my next move is, whether maybe my breath smells, whether I'm being a good kisser or not. With Nina, I thought of nothing, and it's something I'd sought all my life. It was the most potent meditation I have yet encountered.
Nina's family, Marianna and Rene, are the artisans across the street from my family. They were enamored with me far before Nina ever arrived, from the first day when I went into their shop and carved a bamboo flute with a hand drill and a broken chisel. One night I was hanging out in their living room in the evening, singing along to Spanish songs with Rene on the Guitar, and Nina joined us. After we sang "House of the Rising Sun" (only the first verse, who knows any more then that) in three different languages, German, English, and Spanish, it was a blast. Marianna told me "Mi casa es su casa" and that I was always welcome, which I took to mean I could stay there at night.
That night I stayed with Nina in her room. We didn't have sex, I just kissed her and then wrapped her in my arms, and had some of the most restful sleep of my life.
The next morning Marianna confronted Nina and asked her if I was her "Novio", a word which means something very different here from girlfriend in the states, but Nina said no, because, like me, she is afraid of attachment. Marianna said that this was not ok.
We had a tough conversation after this. I asked why she said no, telling her I didn't give a shit about labels, which is true, and that the rumors were already flying anyway, in a village with eighty families all of which are cousins and uncles and grandfathers it doesn't take long. It became apparent she was petrified by the future, and it almost ended right there. She came to my room, and we were talking. I was circling around the idea of star-crossed, from Romeo and Juliet. I'd always thought that Romeo and Juliet were just infatuated, that they weren't truly in love, and that their deaths were just a waste, and that it's a pretty empty show. Weak for Shakespeare, whom I love. Now I was starting to understand. Different worlds, impossible to combine, and yet here we were. I told her that we should give up on the future, and just ignore it for the moment, to simply exist in the present. We sat in silence for a long time. "I think this is ok." She said, and then we kissed very passionately for a long time. I wrote this poem:

when star-crossed
don't be careful
you cant avoid the super-nova
if you fight the gravitational pull
you just orbit longer
and who wants to wait
to burn another billion years
and get sucked into somebody elses black hole
lets forget our names
and the games of our families
and let the fires engulf the universe

Like I had said, we didn't talk about the future for a while after that. The night before I got sick we went to a cockfight in a small arena at the bottom of the village. We drank warm beer out of plastic cups and smoked cigarettes and watched crazy chickens kill each other while the villagers shouted, "Fight my son!" and gambled. We placed inconsequential bets with each other on the fights, mostly of a sexual nature. We talked about obscure movies and our favorite books.
The next day I was really sick. In fact, the next week I was really sick. I slept twenty hours a day for five days, I didn't eat anything, and was generally in a world of hurt. She came to visit me every day, several times. It was all I had to look forward to. My circulation was terrible, and my hands and feet would go numb for hours, and I would lay freezing, waiting to see her. Just when I couldn't take it anymore, she would show up at the door, with her beautiful smile, and those eyes that are like golden mountain peaks rising out of green forests surrounding her pupils. And I would smile for the only time that day, and she'd crawl into the bed with me and I'd say how happy I was she was there, and five minutes later I would be warm. I think maybe if I hadn't gotten sick for so long maybe we would have the same fire, and we'd have another two weeks before she goes, but who's to know.
After six days I went to a doctor in San Miguel de Los Bancos, a nearby quote-on-quote city, which is kind of a shit hole, and saw a doctor. It cost five dollars, and he prescribed me four different drugs, all of which were wrong, and didn't even tell me what was wrong with me. I took his drug regimen, and for days got worse. The villagers bathed me in a special bath of pink herbed water, and had me lay in several swathes of black mud, wrapped around my stomach and forehead and neck, to help with the fever. I never had a thermometer, but I would guess I was around 104. There were days where I was burning up, and I would wake up in the night covered in sweat and then I would be freezing cold and my sheets were soaked. My family took really good care of me, but it was clear I needed a real doctor.
I went with Nina to Quito to visit my friends there and see a real doctor. We arrived on Sunday, and had to wait until Monday to see the doctor. We went to the Guayasamin Museum in the morning before my appointment on Monday, a museum filled with paintings of hands with more pain then I could describe. I was exhausted after twenty minutes, and I couldn't understand how there was so much pain in these paintings, I was so happy, even in a completely debilitated state.
I saw the doctor and got a blood test, he gave me the appropriate prescription, and after eight days of complete horror, except for the times when I was with Nina, I was on my way to recovery. When we got back to Las Tolas I felt that I was one day away from being ok, when she came to me and gave me the classic speech.
"I really like spending time with you." She said. I knew when she stepped into the room why she was there.
"Will you cuddle with me? I'm freezing?" I said, like the final grasp for a branch of a man falling down a cliff. She just nodded her head 'no'.
"I can't do this anymore." I just lay there waiting for more. I lay there and she sat on the side of my bed in silence for a while.
"Is it the future again?" I said.
"No, it's not the future. It's all, just, now."
"Is it this guy in Spain?" I wasn't angry. In fact I hadn't even collapsed yet. I still don't know if I have. Maybe that's why I keep having that dream.
"I think so." She said. We talked about it. I think its important to explain my feelings on the unnamed guy in Spain. She had been with him for six months in an open-relationship, open because she's afraid of the connection and the labels, something I can relate to. When she was in Quito she had read some emails he had sent her, and then later he had called her long distance, and though I wasn't there, she said she had cried for about an hour, for the first time on her trip. Now part of me hates this guy, like really hates him. But this is the thinnest, most primary level of my emotions towards him. More then anything I feel his pain. He's exactly where I am, except I guess he's winning, I don't know. I really want to sit down and have a beer with him more then I want to bury a shovel into his brainstem. I feel like he is my brother. He certainly has good taste in women. I really want to meet him, partially so I can put his corpse through a meat grinder and feed it to the poor, but mostly because I want to give him a hug, and tell him that women are all bitches and get good and drunk with him, because that's the best thing a friend can do when you've got a broken heart. And he is my friend. I don't even know him, he probably wants to casually nudge me into an active volcano crater, but I'd like to think that part of him also wants to know me, that part of him wants to give me a hug and tell me everything is gonna be ok.
I asked her if she wanted to hear some poems, and she said yeah. I had read her maybe one or two empty pieces up to this point, but now I opened the floodgates. I explained that I knew that this would happen because it always happens. I went into the archives of my computer and, as she had tore away the armor of my heart before, I opened the armor of my soul to her through my poetry. There was only one poem I couldn't bring myself to read to her. It's from the last time, when I swore never to let this happen again. It's a shitty poem, probably the most honest I've ever written, and I think it contains my best line.

what is it to be heartsick?
i would have traded the moon and the sun and the stars in the sky for you girl
i would have lain with you and watched the world fall

your eyes haunt me
when i close mine i see into their depths
it's not your body that i wanted

i would have loved you girl
i would have loved you like there was no tomorrow

We would have broken free
escaped all the shit

a broken heart is just a circle

I think about that last line a lot. A heart is just a circle with two points pulled down, and that's what I think love is, its where the two of you, on opposite sides of a cycle, sink down and stop for a minute, and suddenly your entire life, which is composed of cycles in circles in cycles, stops for a moment, and that's the beauty of love. And when my heart is ripped from my chest, those points disappear, if there is just one point it will just swing off balance, and the cycle reverts. For me maybe it is the circle of pain, from one heartbreak to depression to heartbreak, to philosophical wandering lost in the future for the present, back to heartbreak. Or it could be just the circle of my life, and I guess I have to take solace in that, for that means it goes on, but when you've just experienced what it's like when the circle stops, then you start to think you never want to get to the high point again, because it is inevitably connected to the low point, and the low point is so low.
I spent that first night not sleeping, listening to really angry music and trying to figure out Guayasamin. I drew hands until my real hands hurt. Eventually I realized that its not real hands that show the pain, its what your hands would look like if they showed everything you've been through. I let my hands escape, fingers twisting in the wrong directions, thumbs as long as middle fingers, twisted nails cracked from years of touching, of being touched, of being burned and broken. I poured my pain into my hands, and I poured my hands onto the page. I filled my hands with pieces of my broken heart and blood pouring down my convoluted wrists. I drew tortured clouds twisted through the fingers of my hands, rain mingling with the blood from the pieces of my heart, which my hands tried helplessly to hold together, and seemed to disintegrate onto the page. And it was beautiful. And I think now I understand Guasayamin. I had to take my hands and make them his, and to do that I had to have pain. Maybe writers aren't the only ones the universe conspires to create in this manner.
The next day I was incredibly depressed. I hadn't told anyone my heart was broken, and the villagers all thought I was just sick. I sat outside looking at the dirt floor, and a group of villagers gathered around and talked about me. I was in too much lassitude to pay attention. They told me that I had a sickness of the soul, not of the body, and that I needed to see the Shaman. I didn't care. At noon I hopped on the back of Fernando's motorcycle, and we drove an hour to the Shaman's house. She was an old lady wearing pink slippers with blue socks. We had brought a special egg, and she rubbed it unbroken all over my naked body. Up and down my chest and back, over my arms and legs, and rapidly across my palms. She then sprayed my entire torso with mouthfuls of some intense smelling liquid, from a glass jug filled with leaves. She went into the back room which was filled with herbs and little dropper bottles with faded labels, and came out with the egg cracked into a glass mixed with some liquid. She used this egg to read my soul.
She said the foam on top was because I was worried. The white specks hovering over the yolk were because I missed my family, but that the main problem was the filmy column of white rising from the yolk to the surface of the liquid. She said this was someone from another country who was causing me great pain. The two spots of red on the yolk where because I was stressed. She told me my back had been hurting, and it had. She made me a disgusting brown potion which I drank, and then massaged my back. She made me another potion, this one green, and slightly less vile, and after I drank this she took my blood pressure with a modern digital sensor, and told me not to eat meat or sweets for two days. She said I would be fine, but that I had to work through my pain. She gave me a bottle of the green potion to take with me, which I never drank.
When I was a kid I was really violent. I beat some kid up in middle school with a broom. I had so many fights I almost got expelled. I think it was because of the pain of moving so many times and being ripped away from so many people I loved, but the cause of it is unimportant, the result of it was pain, for me, for everyone. Authority tore me apart, and at some point, when I got past my rebellious nature, I realized that my violent rebellions were weakness, and that victory comes not in the form of a downed opponent, but in the lack of an opponent. I figured this out, and forgiveness became a huge part of my life.
I took a Faulkner class in college, and the professor in one lecture said that the reason the New Testament was so significant and influential is because it introduced the idea of forgiveness. Before that, God (or Gods) were vengeful creatures, He, or They, spent their time shitting on mortals and smiting left and right, to prove their awesome power. In the New Testament, suddenly there is a figure for forgiveness, and that power is everything. I am by no means a Christian, my religious views are nonexistent and my spiritual views are far too complicated for this story, but I had just read the Bible for the first time, and this revelation had a big impact on me, even years after I had found forgiveness.
I saw a lecture on the Internet about a young man who broke away from his father, a preacher and a closet shaman, and ran off lost to South America to try and figure out his crumpled past (sounds familiar). Deep in the Peruvian Jungle he took Ahajuasca, one of the most potent hallucinogens on the planet. He was lost in the jungle, and was (or thought he was) wandering waist deep through a stream, and he saw a light in the distance and Jesus was walking on water towards him. Except Jesus wasn't a long haired blonde dude in a sparkling robe, he was a carpenter, he was strong and had rough hands and short hair, and wore worn clothing. He walked up to this guy, and looked down at him standing waist deep in the water, and kneeled down and asked what was wrong. The guy looked at Jesus and told him that he had fucked up, that he didn't know where to go, and that he hated his father for all these things and couldn't reconcile himself with that, and just all this shit. Jesus reached down and took his hand, and said to him, "The only person who can judge is my father, and he never does." And he pulled this kid out of the water, and then he left, and this guy walked off on the water and found his way back to reality, and back to the United States and reunited with his father and basically figured his shit out.
I don't know why I always remember this story. I think it's because I relate to that kid, not because I hate my father, in fact I respect and love my father more than anyone on the planet, but because I feel that I came to the same journey, perhaps in a less epic manner, through drugs and life and experiences, in order to understand forgiveness. And forgiveness has saved my life. I think maybe forgiveness appeals to me so much because it's another broken circle. I wrote this poem in Faulkner class:

Forgiveness is a horseshoe never thrown.

When you forgive someone, and forgive yourself, you end an endless cycle of pain and negative energy. Suddenly instead of returning the blow, and perpetuating the argument, simply by backing down, or by living by John Lennon's famous words and letting it be, you have actually made the world a better place, for you and for everyone else.
I don't know how to reconcile this with my idea's on broken hearts. If a heart is a broken circle then that's why love appeals so much to me, that's why I am and have always been in love with the idea of love. But love as a circle means nothing to me, that's why I never have long relationships. It's the break that means everything to me. And I think this might be why I am destined to have my heart broken again and again, and to break hearts again and again (and for this I find it very difficult to forgive myself), because it is the break, the two points sinking out of the circle, which appeals to me so much. All my life I've had these fantasies of breaking away, breaking the circle, and I mean smashing the shit out of it. This is a poem about breaking circles, which I wrote a couple of days before I met Nina.

I like driving next to pretty girls in cars
whenever I come to a stoplight
or even rolling on the highway
I turn over and there she is
just beyond a sheet of glass. 
they don't have to look back
I smile or I don't
but when you both cruise into the same zone
and your loping next to each other like two mechanized camels
she always looks back
she's pretty
you can tell from the way the seatbelt caresses the curve of her shoulder that she's graceful
then I always smile.
The light goes green
my exits coming up
I always hope for a moment that maybe we will just stop. 
Leave our doors open to embrace in the intersection to a cacophony of trumpeting horns
Kiss wildly and then fly away forever, leaving her friends and my co-worker who I'm driving home wondering what the hell just happened
we'll call them from Mexico and they will laugh about it later and say it was true love
but in truth I just drive off. take my exit
watch her taillights fade into the distance
I never talk to them.

The problem is the end. That I never run away. I've got exams coming up. Or work to go to tomorrow. Even if I were to run away, how long until I get crushed back into the cycle? How long before I have to take my exit? Or worse, how long does it take for the image of her through the window to disintegrate into reality, the way the glittering colors of the Toreador fade to worn thread and a dusty costume as the bull approaches? I don't know. But I do know that this is why I fell for Nina so hard. We were both already out of the car, we were on a bus to nowheresville South America already when we first met. She was everything I wanted, a perfect coincidence, and all I wanted to do was run with her.
If she had asked me to leave everything and go with her, to buy plane tickets to Russia and farm sugar beets outside of Moscow, or to walk to Guatemala, or just to go off and get on the first bus we can find and take it as far as we can go, and then just fucking live their, or go on, or anything, I would have gone with her. In a second. If she had said let's go, right now, forget your family, forget your plane ticket to go home in a couple months, we've got backpacks and clothes, enough money to survive, lets fucking go. I would have gone. This doesn't scare me. And I would have. I told her so. What scares the shit out of me is that if she asked me to go right now, after my hearts been crushed into dust, and blown back into the clouds where she found it, I think I would say yes. I know I would. Even after she caused me more pain then any time my heart has ever been broken before, after she gave me my first recurring nightmare, even knowing eventually the circle will eventually wind us back into the fold, and my heart must someday revert to its cyclical nature, I would go with her. I want it more then anything.
She lives across the street. She's leaving in two weeks. I'll show her this story in hopes that she will take me back, that maybe for two weeks she'll decide to love me with the fires of before, but I know this isn't true. It can't be. It's not like you can get out of the car twice. It's the same as the time before, and the time before that, except this time at least I got to hold her for a few moments, and those moments are everything. Those moments are this story, and this story is what makes me a writer. Maybe it's not a very good story. Maybe the poems in it would never be published in Poetry Magazine or the New York Times, but the truth of the matter is that I'm not writing this story for you, or even for Nina, I'm writing it for me.
When I started writing it I thought it was because I needed to write it down, to remember, so that I can make sure that it will never happen again, to learn to protect my heart better. But I think now I know that this needs to happen again. That maybe it is only when this happens that I really have a heart at all, and all that armor I've been building up is just to protect a circle which I can't even see because it's so surrounded by pain. That my heart exists to be broken is a hard thing to come to terms with, and maybe someday I will actually run away with that girl leaving my friends at the intersection, and truly never come back. But the fact of the matter is I am a part of the circle and a part of this world. And if the universe is so fucking powerful anyway, it's not like I can fight it. I need to take my own advice.
I am hopelessly in love with Nina, the Austrian girl who I met on the bus. She took my heart and she crushed it, and I would let her crush it again. I haven't told her this. Shit, I've never used the L-word in my life with a girl who wasn't my mom. And yet I know it's true. I know it's true because if she asked me to go, I would, even after all this. But she won't. In all likelihood I will never hold her in my arms again. I'll continue to talk to her, and spend time with her, despite the fact that it drives red hot railroad spikes into my chest every time I see her and can't hold her and keep her warm and protect her, and when she leaves I will give her a hug, and we will look into each others eyes and think the same things which we have been thinking for the past couple days and which we will be thinking until she leaves, and then she will go. There's only one course of action left for me, and that is to finish the story. Because this is all part of the story. It's the story of my life, the life of a writer, and the beautiful moments and painful moments are what make it worth living, and what someday will make it worth reading.
So here goes. Nina, I fucking love you with all my heart, your the first one, I'm sure of that, and I wish you hadn't blown my heart back into the clouds, at least for another two weeks, but I understand that in many ways you didn't have a choice, and for what you've done, I forgive you. Ivan, your life is a nebulous whirlwind, by when your shit gets really fucked up, that's when you start to figure it out, and so for my mistakes, and for my weaknesses, I forgive myself. For the nameless guy in Spain, I forgive him too. I still want to have a beer with him, but I don't want to remove all his appendages with a machete anymore. I want him to be happy, and I want Nina to be happy with him. And when their heart's someday revert to circles, as I think most hearts do when one of the points is a nineteen year old girl, I hope that they can forgive themselves, and that they don't look back upon me with regret. Because I think with writing this, maybe my heart has finally lost the second point, and gone from a rotten apple back to a pure circle. But this time I'm not going to armor it. I'm going to let myself fall in love and have my heart broken again, partly in hopes that someday our two points will fall so far that the circle never reverts, and partly because, of the dust which three days ago was my heart, I have built a lesson, and I am stronger because of that. I am stronger without my armor, because the armor is a true indication that I have not forgiven others, and that I have not forgiven myself. I came to South America to find myself, to figure my shit out, because I am so completely hopelessly lost in this world. It took a pinnacle of joy, and an ocean of pain for me to realize that we are all hopelessly lost, aimlessly wandering looking for pieces of a puzzle we may never complete. We are all just looking for something to hold onto, someone to break the circle, and maybe in all the in between time all I have is the memories of the past, and the uncertain hope of the future, but that's what life is. That's what the life of a writer is.
I walked to the water tower with Nina tonight, after she read this story. The sky was crystal clear, and there were millions of stars. Billions. We walked to the water tower and sat on it and tried to remember which constellations were which, not really caring. She was cold, so I gave her my jacket, but I was warm. We lay back and looked a million miles up into the crystal sky, and saw the distant lights of other towns and the soft curves of the mountains in the distance which we had missed before in the haze of the clouds. We watched the stars until a soft cover of cloud blew over and only the north star shone through a thin blanket of pale. We couldn't stop laughing about how crazy it all is, how the circles always come back, and how beautiful the cloud forest is. I had almost forgotten. We stopped to listen to birds and chirping insects on the way back. She's glad to have me as a friend, and I her.
In Marianna's shop earlier I had made an intricate wood burning of a bird flying over the forest whose wings turned into swirls of air and plumes of fire. The bird was always Nina. I told her that it was for her. "One day, when your a grandmother, this little thing is going to be hiding dusty somewhere on the mantel piece, and your grand kids are gonna pick this up and ask you where it's from. Is this from India? From your time in Africa or adventures in Brazil?"
"Oh this is a long story." She says. "Sit down and I am going to make some cocoa, and then I will tell you the story of this bird."
I think we have helped each other find a piece of the puzzle which we were missing before.
I don't think I will be having that dream again.

Reforestation with Igor the Ukrainian, Digging Giant Holes, and Fishing

It's been a very eventful series of days. Sorry no blog posts, but the internet here seems to have conked out so I am basically limited to posting in internet cafes in nearby towns.
I was invited to do reforestation the other day, for two days, which I have yet to do, so I agreed to go work with some of the other volunteers. We went at seven in the morning in a car with a really awesome fellow named Igor, from the Ukraine, to his finca in order to plant trees in an area which had been deforested for pasture. Igor bought 32 acres here for the purpose of making a park, he's a Ukrainian who owns a house painting company in upstate New York who plans to retire here next year. His finca is called Finca Figaro, named after his dog who was killed by a coyote in New York.
We got there in the morning, its past Gualeacruz, near where I met the Shaman, and basically went right to work. We had a small mountainside of about two acres to reforest. We took hundreds of trees in small black plastic bags up to the hill, and then proceeded to dig holes every two meters or so all over the mountain. The first day I was the only one who dug holes, which annoyed me as Edgar, the guy who is in charge of the tourist group basically sat around and watched as I and the girls worked. That's not how a leader should act. Nevertheless, I dug about 120 holes the first day, as the girls followed behind and planted trees. It's lower then Las Tolas, and alot hotter and sunnier, but the whole time we had this amazing view of the mountains, so every time you rest you can turn around and see forever into beautiful cloud forest. Igor jokes that this is his TV, he has 8 channels, which range from complete cloud cover to endless vistas with no clouds.
We had Borscht, Russian beet soup, and pork and carrots for lunch. Pretty delish, a nice change of pace from soup, however we had chicken soup on day two (followed by fried yuca, which ws good). Day two was similar, except for Edgar actually did some work. I dug the first fifty holes, and then went to get some water, and when I got back Edgar was digging, so I started planting trees. We worked all day, it tore my hands up so the next day I just rested and helped in the artisans shop across the street with Marianna and Rene, making jewelery.
The next day was another La Minga, which I guess just means tourist group volunteer work. This was in the same location as where I carried all the bamboo and started digging the latrine. Today we were to finish the big hole. It had collapsed some and was a little under a meter deep, by two wide by one long when we got there. We basically just dug all day. It was serious labor. The hole was three meters deep when we left. So deep, it was a full three feet above my head, we needed ropes to get in and out, and the dirt had to be dragged out bucket by bucketful with a rope. We took turns digging in the hole and filling buckets and then climbing out with the help of the robe and some hands and then dragging bucket after bucket of dirt out. This was an insane back and tricep excersize. I was completely exhausted, covered in dirt, but pretty happy. I woke up the next day far sorer then from a solid three hour workout at the gym, just torn up all up and down my back and in my shoulders.
But today we were going on an adventure with Igor. He picked us up at 9:30, and I slept till 8:40 which is a huge luxury, and then drove us to his Finca. Our first adventure was walking down a steep mountain through a neighbors farm to an amazing little waterfall and swimming in it. The water was cold but refreshing, and we jumped off rocks into the waterfall and then ate passionfruits while we dried. This was great.
Then we had to climb back up the mountain. I was ready for a swim afterwards. We went back to Finca Figaro and had some soup. Igor is great for conversation, and is always imparting little words of wisdom with a thick Ukrainian accent. He was in the Soviet army for two years, and has been all over the world, and knows a ton of places in Ecuador. He told us about a great little town at the beach which we are going to visit in a few days. After some leftover soup we were off to go "fishing", a thirty minute drive away.
We arrived at the fishing place, which is really a small man made lake which I believe to be trout farm where you stick a bamboo pole into the water and wait for a troup to bite. As easy as this was, it was a ton of fun, and we caught four trout for the four of us (Nina the Austrian, Me the American, Emma the Australian, and Igor the Ukranian) and then took them to the restaurant directly next to the lake where they cooked them for us, A la plancha, which is roasted on a wooden board, and ate them. The trout were large and of the spotted variety with pink flesh, and they were absolutely amazing. I ate mine, and then some of Emma's and Nina's. On the drive back we stopped in Nanegalito for some Ice cream and Guava paste, a delicious purple substance, as well as a couple jars of Manjar, which is basically Dulce de Leche.
We got back to Igor's Finca and decided to have tea and a little bit of rum and relax before going home. We ended up sitting around the table, drinking Jasmine Tea, a half bottle of Granadian rum, as well as eating mozerella and Dulce de Leche and fresh pineapple for around five hours, just having brilliant conversation. It was amazing. Igor's house is beautiful and compared to Las Tolas is like a five star hotel. He has forks and knives for example, and a coffee machine and an oven. Holy cow! We talked about everything under the sun, and just relaxed. It was great. Around ten o'clock (two hours after normal village bedtime) we finally set off to go home, and arrived back in LT around 10:45. We said our tearful farewells to Igor, who really is a great guy (Oh! And while we were relaxing he recieved a call from Ukraine saying his new baby Grand-daughter was born! Congratulations Igor!) and now I am about to go to sleep, so I can be up early tomorrow to go to Mindo, a tourist hotspot that supposedly never has any tourists, but should be exciting. More later.
Me Jumping into a Waterfall

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Poem: Clouds

water molecules unite!
stand together in the dimming light
move as one in the growing night

cling to each other and grow
exist in uneven flow
bolster above from below

wrap me in ethereal limbs
dance across my skin
connect me and begin

and end
and send
and break
and mend

provide a lens
to lose the tense
exist apart from recompense

make me one
with you
and then in two
then countless millions
threw and through

and when I'm cowed
lost in the crowd
I have become
part of the cloud

Roof Building

Went to the Finca the day before yesterday. There is a large house built on stilts next to the other cabins at the Finca, and it seems to serve no purpose. This is probably because it has a thatched roof and it is unsafe to sleep under thatched roofs because of parasites. As a result, our project was to remove about two thousand pounds of thatch, burn it, and build a new roof, and then cover it with corrugated metal.
First we removed the thatch. Alonso knocked it down it a hammer and various pieces of bamboo and wood, and Adrian (the four year old) and I gathered it all up and dragged it into a pile a few feet away . A whole bunch of huge spiders came out of the thatch while we were dragging it around, including a 3 inch deadly banana spider, which Adrian promply smashed with his boot.
This was day 1. We burned the Thatch, it was the hottest fire I've ever encountered, you couldn't stand by it ten feet away it was so hot. Hopefully we killed about a half billion spiders.
Then we dug a new pond for the Fish farm (Tilapia). This was some work.
The next day we started to build a new roof. Ripped all the old boards down, built a scaffolding of a single piece of bamboo all around, and made a lot of boards from felled trees. We then built a roof. This was tough, but fun. And it was raining the whole time, and very slippery. No one got hurt.
I drove back on my motorcycle through the rain, this was awesome except my glasses were very wet and foggy. Just wen't slowly.
Me with a cock at the Cockfight

A Shaman cured my Broken Heart (temporarily)

I was really depressed today because this Austrian girl took my heart and crushed it into dust, and blew it into the clouds, but everyone thought I was just really sick. They explained that it wasn't a sickness of my body, but a sickness of my soul, and that I needed to see the Shaman-lady. That sounded great to me. So after moping around all morning I hopped on the back of Fernando's motorcycle, armed with a small plastic bag containing an egg from the farm and my empty medicine container to show to the shaman, and off we went.
It took about an hour to get to her house. maybe twenty Km down the dirt road to Tulipe, then twenty minutes down the paved road past some other towns I don't know, and then another half hour along a dirt road to this lady's house. Her daughter called her when we got there, she was fifty or so, wearing pink socks in sandals, and a worn blue blouse, with a faded pink sweater of some kind draped over her shoulders. She took us into her office, a small wooden room built next to the house, which had a small table and a miniature doctors bed with a blue sheet on it, and then a small back room filled with little vials and herbs and stuff.
The first thing I noticed was the contents of the table, a jar filled with some kind of liquid and cotton swabs, a big unmarked glass moonshine jug filled with leaves and a slightly murky liquid, a modern automatic blood-pressure machine, some sort of red dried plant, and a couple of dropper bottles with faded labels. Fernando and I described what the problem was (minus the broken heart part), and then she told me to take off my shirt.
Now I had been told that the egg we brought was so I could be bathed with it, which I assumed meant breaking the egg and using the inside, but instead the Shaman(ess?) just rubbed it all over my chest, neck, face, and back, and then ran it up along both of my legs and rubbed it rapidly in my hands. And then she sprayed me with a huge mouthful of alcoholly-herby smelling liquid from the jug. I was not prepared for this. After spraying a huge mouthful over my back (and it was cold), she then turned me around and spit all over my chest. Little bit wierd. Anyrate, she told me to put my shirt back on, and went into the back.
She came out with the egg broken into a drinking glass, mixed with some clear liquid. My first thought was, oh shitake mushrooms, rocky or no, I am not drinking that, but fortunately she was just using it as a diagnostic tool. She told me the foam on the top was because I was worried. The white film hovering above the egg was because I missed my family, but that the main problem was a thin column of white pulp rising above the egg, which she said was another person from another country who wasn't here who was causing sickness to my soul, or inner being or whatever. The two small red dots of "blood" in the unbroken yolk were because I was stressed. She said I had been having back pain, and I told her I had but I thought it was simply from spending so much time in bed. She said that the egg clearly said it was from stress.
She then made me the first of two potions. This one was brown, about a half cup, warm, and one of the most vile things I've ever tasted. She said I had to drink it slowly. It was very salty, and if I had to guess, seemed to be a mix of coffee grinds, salt, bitter ass herbs, and maybe soap. It was vile, but I sipped it down.
After the first poition she had me remove my shirt again (which now smells strongly like whatever the hell that jug-liquid is) and lay on the doctors-bed.
She massaged my back, one side and then the other, with some spanish version of tiger-balm, like menthol extra strength relaxation paste. This felt awesome. She then had me sit up, and massage the top of my chest and then my head, but firmly pressing her palms against my temples, and moving her hands back and forth vigorously. Again, awesome.
Then came potion number two. This one was green and at least see-through, and was very bitter but with some sugar in it. She then added a packet of white powder and had me drink it down. This was like candy compared to the first one, and still disgusting. Fortunately she gave me a whole bottle of it (without sugar) to sip on for the next couple days. Yay.
She gave me two pills, one for tonight, and one for tomorrow, and told me not to eat meat or sweets until Sunday. She took my blood pressure with the little machine, which was perfect, and also my resting pulse was 69, which is pretty cool, I guess the altitude is helping my cardio.
She charged me 8 dollars, which I think is expensive but I would happily have paid a hundred for the experience, and then it was off on Fernando's bike again back to Las Tolas. I had a huge smile on my face for most of the ride back, I don't know why, but I felt great. Part of it is just being on a motorcycle. I really, really am completely in love with motorcycles. I am going to buy one when I get back (sorry Mom, Dad, all relatives, nothing you can do to stop me). The other part was the fact that I just had some serious ethnic Shaman healing and this made me really happy. I got back to the village and ate a bowl of soup, a plate of rice and potatoes and a fried egg, and some moracho, which is basically South American rice pudding with corn as well, which is delicious. Everyone was ecstatic, its the most I've eaten in a little while, and everyone was very pleased. Then I took and epic 3 hour nap. Life is pretty good.
I think tomorrow I am going to go to the Finca to do some work, try and take my mind of things, get a little bit of a change of scenery. I feel fine, just a little bit tired.
Oh, and on a side note, I woke up yesterday and they were gutting a pig in the backyard, on the same stone where they wash the clothes. I helped drag this two hundred pound corpse around, while the family cleaned and prepared all of the innards, took the head inside to eat, and then put the body into a truck to go sell in Nanegalito. Fun stuff.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

In Quito...again

In Quito for a few days to see a real doctor. The 5$ guy was an idiot. Saw a real doctor. Had a blood sample taken. I have some kind of viral throat infection, but I should be fine within the next few days. Spent a lazy couple days loafing around. Went to the Guayasamin Museum in Quito which is very beautiful, but very dark. His paintings are incredble, but so filled with anguish in many of his later works that it is almost hard to be in the room. He has an amazing way of doing hands and ribs, and many pictures of people with guitars that are super evocative. Worth checking out. Today I am feeling better and am en route back to the village in about an hour.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Finishing making Panela

Just got back from the Finca after 2 days. Rode back on the motorcycle through clouds, that was very fun.
Before I forget, I just ate a "cuso" a 2 inch long fried grub. I was hesitant. Actually delicious though. Still only ate one.
Before I describe the end of the Panela making process, let me describe my doctors visit from a couple of days ago. Went to see the doctor, in a random alleyway in San Miguel de Los Bancos. No appointment, and only waited 5 minutes. The doctor spoke only Spanish, and I explained I had a sore throat, a little bit of diarrea, but mostly had just been exhausted and slept for the last 4 days. He asked me a couple of questions, poked my tummy a bit and listened with a stethoscope, and then proceeded to perscribe me 4 different things. A shit-ton of ammoxicilin (I figure you can't go wrong), two other unmarked pills which I am a little bit scared of, and a big bottle of "Pedialyte" which is like baby formula rehydration fluid, which I am supposed to drink a half cup of every half hour, which I did for about 2 hours. The doctor consultation cost 5$. Seriously. And the drugs, altogether, cost 16. Forget health care, lets just send all the poor people to South America. I'll bet I could have my appendix removed for 20 bucks. That being said, my throat still feels like shit and I am still a bit sick, so I think this doctor was incompetent. I guess you get what you pay for. Moving on. (Two days later and I am in Quito ready to see another get what you pay for...)
FInished the Panela making process. Dragged a veritable mountain of cut sugar cane to the Trapicha, the machine which crushes the cane into juice, and start the motor. There is a filter system for the juice when it comes out of the machine, which is a wooden box with a screen in it. The juice flows through this box and then through a long hose into the top of the oven, which is a 3 part long metal container on top of a very large amount of fiercely burning wood and embers. Cane is juiced until each of the three parts has a solid eight inch bed of sugar juice, and then the oven is superheated until the juice starts to cook. For about four hours people stand by the various compartments skimming froth which comes to the surface off of the juice, which is the leftover dirt from the cane, and impurities. Halfway through, syrupy water made from soaking a special kind of treebark is added, which further helps remove the dirt, and later burns off. After four hours the first compartment, which is the hottest, starts to bubble up and is filled with golden sugar bubbles. When this gets to the right consistency is it poured into another container to cool briefly and the liquid from the other countainers, which boils down to about 2 inches, is poured in the first containter, in order to cook faster. The liquid hot Panela is first poured onto long pieces of Banana bark, to make ghetto taffy and marshmellows. This parts just for fun. The rest is then loaded into giant wooden scoops, and poured into circular metal molds sitting on a table (which we built earlier). The Panela has to be in the mold without the first 2 minutes or it turns hard. When it cools, the molds are removed and there are 25 shiny golden sugar bricks ready for sale, and a ton of micelaneous powder and chunks to snack on. This is how Panela is made. From aabout 500 stalks of sugar cane, you get 25 circular blocks, three inches tall, with a diameter of about 5 inches. Lots of work for a little product, but its delicious, and watching the molten panela is awesome. We did two loads yesterday and were making Panela until 10.
Today we relaxed, went to the river and swam around, and then came back to LT. More later